Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the Great? Outdoors

One of my colleagues is also a male American knucklehead married to an Austrian woman. We sometimes share a bitter laugh over our wives inscrutable ways. Both his and mine believe in fresh air and wilderness expeditions on Sundays. I believe in padding around in slippers and pajamas for as much of the weekend as possible.

I was thinking about him Sunday as we were putting on our hiking boots and checking the train timetables. The weather was gorgeous, so it was hard for me to argue for padding around. Anette suggested we take a trip to the old village of Hainburg.

On the train, Adinah and I drew pictures, while V. got bored, got screamy, then got asleep. Anette is always so patient. Outside our windows, Vienna waned into farm fields and lonely mills under a warm winter sun.

In Hainburg, we saw ten minutes worth of town, and forty-five minutes worth of playground. Adinah laughed and laughed, but I think the merry-go-round gives V. the creeps: too much dizzy-spinningness.

After awhile, we started down the inevitable hiking path along the Danube. (I like hiking, really I do, but I prefer that someone does it for me. Or at least brings nachos and beer.) It wasn't too bad. Until Anette said, 'Let's play hide and seek.' I groaned. For the rest of the walk, the girls would periodically run ahead, tuck themselves behind a scraggly bush or a tiny tree, and I would have to pretend I didn't see them. Then they would jump out and "scare" me. That was ghastly.

There we were walking a beautiful piece of river, goofing off on one of the rare sunny January afternoons in Austria. But I was drowning in a sea of cantankerousness, my friends. Actually, I was just hungry. After we stopped and ate some salami and bread, I was better.

We walked to the edge of a marsh, and broke off chunks of the ice sheets in the shallows. Then we threw them out onto the frozen river, and watched them break into ice cubes. All the girls "oohed" and "ahhed" and giggled.

Then we turned around and headed back to Hainburg. As we reached the quiet edge of the village, I looked around at the train trestles and the empty streets. I was hit by a sudden wave of longing for the US, for America, for my home. Sometimes I think I won't be able to make it here for much longer. Sometimes it feels like a long dream, and I wonder what's happened to me. Sometimes I just want to be back in the land I know, the one I understand with my eyes and all my senses and my body.

I don't know where this ache comes from so suddenly--is it always in me? I don't know how long I will feel this way. Somehow I still can't believe I'm going to live in this strange old place for the rest of my life.

Then the wave passed. I started taking pictures of the strange old place. 'Wow, that looks funny.' Hey, isn't that cute and medieval!' Click-whirr-snap.

So it goes.


C N Heidelberg said...

I get these waves too. But not for the US in general, I get them for my home state, Iowa. It's the only place really in my blood that I feel I understand in an almost instinctual way. I know that even if I go back to the US we'll never go back to Iowa. It's strange to feel so cut loose.

pat said...

Hi CN! "Cut loose" is a particularly apt phrase, though it sounds scarier than I feel. I'm more in that "floating in space but still somehow, somewhere tethered to the mothership" phase. Oh well, here's wishing you good Iowa thoughts!